Muggings of students show marked decline

The number of robberies of Yale students that have taken place this fall has dropped significantly compared to last fall, according to the Yale Police Department, but student awareness of the change is mixed.

YPD Lt. Michael Patten said that while four or five robberies had occurred within the first couple of weeks of the fall 2005 semester, no robberies have been reported in the campus area since the official beginning of the school year. The difference is due to increased student awareness and security efforts implemented in response to last year’s crime wave, he said. But while some students said they had noticed the drop, others said they were not aware of the change.

By about this time last year, YPD Chief James Perrotti had already sent approximately five e-mails to the Yale community about multiple robberies committed against Yale students in and around the University. By contrast, Perrotti has sent only one e-mail this year, regarding the Aug. 28 robbery of a divinity student near the Divinity School. Last month, a student was also robbed at Elm St. and Platt St., but that is out of the YPD’s range.

Patten attributed the reduction to adjustments he said the YPD made in response to last year’s muggings, including the presence of several walking beats in areas on the fringes of campus. He also said improvements in security services, like the minibus, have contributed to the positive change.

“A lot of it is just having the police out there and being visible and talking to people,” he said. “We figured out where and when things were happening and put people out there. Last year, once we put the people out there, we had a big decrease.”

Patten said that though he could not comment on specifics, the YPD has placed more officers in places known historically for criminal activity — including areas hit hard by crimes last fall, such as the Wall St. area and the Edgewood/Howe neighborhood. Officer hours have also been extended to adjust to the earlier dusk hours during winter, he said.

In addition to the increased police presence, University officials said changes in Yale’s transit services could have contributed to the drop in crime.

Ed Bebyn, the manager of Parking & Transit, said that after last year’s robberies, the University decided to expand the scope of the minibus by authorizing him to spend more money as needed to improve the service.

Changes have included adding a new route, dubbed the red line, that provides service from the Edgewood/Howe area to Timothy Dwight College. The University also expanded existing routes and introduced more frequent shuttles and door-to-door service, Bebyn said. Though specific numbers are not available, he said, ridership has increased significantly over the past year.

“Ridership has increased, [and] the number of complaints … have decreased,” he said. “Ridership is up on all counts except the [new] red line.”

But Bebyn also said that services are constantly under review for future improvements. He and many students said that though wait times for the call-in services have decreased from as long as 20 minutes to less than 15 minutes, students may still have to wait longer than is desirable during busy hours.

Patten said the increase in minibus use has strongly complemented the increased patrols in helping prevent “crimes of opportunity.” But he cautioned against students becoming too complacent as a result of these improvements in the crime rate.

“You have to be aware and concerned about what’s going on, not necessarily scared,” he said. “There’s usually an increase [in robberies] this time of year because people are wearing more clothes so it’s easier to hide a weapon [and] it gets darker earlier.”

Students said they had noticed the change in crime rates to varying degrees. Though many said they have recognized changes in police presence and security services, others have not.

Christine Nguyen ’09 said she has observed a noticeable difference in atmosphere between the time she started school last fall and now.

“There are definitely less [YPD] e-mails than last year,” she said. “There are definitely more YPD and security officers on campus.”

Nguyen said she has also noticed improved lighting in certain areas of campus.

Eve Fine ’07 said she became aware of an increased police presence around her Park St. apartment, but is not sure whether or not it is a good sign. She said she had not noticed any reduction in crime and had assumed the increased patrolling was a reaction to a recent crime increase rather than a preventative measure.

Though Fine feels safe living off-campus, she said, students should be careful when outside, even with the positive news about a decrease in campus crime.

“I think it’s important for people to be aware of what’s going on and if there’s been an improvement of safety in New Haven,” she said. “But I think it’s important for people to remain cautious, regardless of that news.”

According to Department of Education statistics, there were 19 Yale students robbed on public property in 2005. Statistics for 2006 are not yet available.

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